I understand that 警察 is a broader term to refer to the police in general, but it can be used to refer to a police officer. In such case, is it equivalent to 警官 or there is still a difference between both words?


3 Answers 3


The difference is actually huge.

「警察{けいさつ}」 can refer to:

1) The intangible "police" as an institution. The whole system of policing a nation, region, etc.

2) The tangible "police station" or "police department". Also called 「警察署{けいさつしょ}」

3) The informal form of 「警察官{けいさつかん}」 or 「警官{けいかん}」 = "a cop".

「警官{けいかん}」 only has one meaning.

1) "a policeman", "a cop". Synonymous to 「警察官{けいさつかん}」


For the native speakers, the first word we learn to use for referring to a cop is definitely 「おまわりさん」. You are not going to hear a toddler say:

「さっき警察官に『こんにちは』って言われた。」 or


The kind of toddler who would say those would be considered かわいくない.

  • 1
    This answer is excellent. Thank you!
    – jarmanso7
    Aug 18, 2019 at 17:17

Regarding 警官・警察官, I think @Ramya's answer is sufficient.

Which leaves us with 警察. I would make a comparison to how we use the word 'police' in English.

Referencing an individual: 'He's police.' 'He's a cop.' 'He's a police officer.' Saying that he is police is just a shorthand for saying that he is with the police department.
That's how I would see the usage of 警察 for an individual officer.

警察 is usually an abbreviation of 警察署, but in the context above it is an abbreviation of 警察官.

So, to answer your question as to whether there's a difference, I would say that (excluding words not directly related to those in the question) 警察官 is the most proper way to reference an individual, 警官 is next best, and 警察 is probably last due to its potential vagueness.


警察 - It means police, police officer and police station(commonly using "police" relevant word).

警官 - It means only police officer (constable, DSP etc).

  • 4
    This is just a rewording of my question, not an actual answer
    – jarmanso7
    Aug 16, 2019 at 12:50

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